Thursday, July 15, 2010

Food grade wax at the farmer' market, is this really local?

An egg sandwich with tomato, basil, fresh mozzarella cheese and homemade bread.

Recently Chris and I found a deal on fresh mozzarella cheese, and wanted to have tomatoes with our cheese.  He headed out to the farmers' market to purchase some ripe produce, and brought home red tomatoes, along with food grade wax.  Yes, food grade wax on farmers' market tomatoes.  My culinarian spouse said, "they're probably Sysco tomatoes."  To say the least, I was disappointed.  Now, I'm not saying foods from Sysco are bad.  I am saying when I go to a farmers' market, I expect to get locally grown produce -- ripe, fresh picked, succulent, yummy.  Unfortunately, it's not always the case, buyer beware.  Is anything simple these days? 

In my eyes, the integrity of the grower has been tainted.  No, they weren't promoting the tomatoes as locally grown, but I assume if a farmer is at a farmers' market, they are selling produce that actually grew in this area.  And honestly, maybe they did grow these tomatoes and covered them in wax, but I doubt that's the case.  Sure, they just wanted to provide me with what I want.  But what I want is seasonal food, if tomatoes aren't ripe, I'll eat something else.  And, if I want wax on my tomatoes, I'll buy them from the local chain grocery store (and sometimes I do.)

I believe most farmers do sell locally grown crops, but to those who don't, here's my plea -- farmers, we want to support you, but in return we want locally grown foods.  I wonder if this producer realizes the amount of my sales they lost to other producers due to one Sysco tomato.  There's a business concept in there somewhere.


  1. I'm with you. They're not suppose to be "reselling." Buying at the farmers' market is about cutting out the 'middle man.' One has to watch. I'm enjoying your blog!

  2. Reselling at a farmers market isn't necessarily a bad thing. It's something we're looking at doing at the Delano market simply because the neighborhood market concept doesn't work any other way. If you're going to put a market within walking distance of everyone, your sharply limited supply of farmers is going run out of time to farm. "I didn't grow this but I can tell you who did, where, and when" is an acceptable compromise to me.

    But it's an interesting assumption, that farmers market is local produce. When Beck's Farm had that store on Central, they were part of a co-op, and were quite open about the fact that the peaches were local, but other things weren't, and they could generally (depending on who was working) tell me that, for instance, those watermelons came from Arizona, and that some of their peaches were in turn sold by that watermelon farmer. (I don't know if Beck's is still doing that; they've since diversified their farm quite a bit, but back at the time they were still just starting with things like rhubarb and strawberries of their own.)

    I believe Kansas farmers markets are required to sell only produce from inside Kansas, or one county away if the market is in a state-line county. Many markets have tighter restrictions (I think Delano's has a mile radius built in... 100?). But I believe they're allowed to call themselves farmers markets whether or not they're using the USDA/KDA definitions - if they want to give up the exemptions like selling eggs without tax stamps and so forth, they don't have to abide by the restrictions either. At that point, it's up to the buyer to ask, which either means the public needs educated on the subject or that we need laws like Washington state's (home of the Safeway parking-lot debacle) restricting the terminology so the public is *safe* in assuming.

  3. Thanks for your comments - I agree that things can be sold second hand at farmers' markets, but it seems they should be from a short distance away with a freshness expectation delivered. If not held to this standard, why not just go to the grocery store?

    I was unaware of the local to Kansas requirement by the USDA/KDA - will have to look into that, thanks for sharing. I know the Kansas Grown Farmers' Market at the extension with sites at Green Acres & Derby requires their vendors to sell Kansas products.

  4. Well, in Delano's case it's because we don't have a grocery store. We have a Braum's and a QuikTrip.

  5. Makes sense - I don't typically think of Wichita as a place with food deserts. But you're right, for someone who doesn't have easy access to transportation, the farmers' market might be the best bet they have at getting nutrient dense foods, whether they are grown locally or not. I guess we go back to the nice part of knowing the vendor - you can always ask about the food's history.

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